|Copyright 2004-2016 Carol Palioudaki. Living in Crete www.livingincrete.net
Zakros - A visit to the Gorge of the Dead
Crete has been frequented by outdoor enthusiasts for many years; with
cheap flights to the island available year-round it’s as much loved for its
wild and dramatic inland scenery and rocky seaside coves as it is for party
beaches and watersports. To the east of Heraklion lies the village of
Zakros, heading a community of smaller rural settlements in the island's
quiet eastern region, but better known for the nearby Zakros Gorge, known
as the 'Gorge of the Dead'.
Less-visited than its more famous western cousin, the Samaria Gorge,
Zakros Gorge is situated about 38 kilometres from Sitia. The natural
landmark was given its funereal name after evidence of Minoan burial sites
were found in the caves, set in the steep gorge-side. Today, the area not
only forms a stunning backdrop for country hikes, but the last section of the
E4 path, a Europe-wide trail beginning at the continent's western-most
point in Portugal.
The gorge hike begins around 4 kilometres from Ano Zakros (or Upper
Zakros village) where there is a car park and bus stop for visitors.
From here, it takes about 2 hours to walk down to Kato Zakros on the
coast. The first portion of the trail follows quite a sharp descent, but the
majority of the walk from thereon cuts through the bottom of the riverbed.
Though free of water in the summer, you may need to negotiate stepping
stones or indulge in some paddling to get across during wintertime.
Despite its grisly name, there is plenty of vegetation and bird life found
here and once you reach the sparkling blue and white shores at Kato
Zakros, you'll be rewarded with lunch at a waterfront taverna and the
chance to enjoy a pristine unspoiled beach.
These are not the only attractions of the lower village, however. The Palace
of Zakros is found a short distance from the shore, but closes in the mid-
afternoon so make sure you allow enough time to walk there, if coming
from Ano Zakros. Discovered in the 1960s, it dates back to 1900BC and
forms a vast, walkable ruin of numerous rooms, corridors and courtyards. A
huge amount of Minoan treasures were unearthed here, now viewed in the
museums of Sitia and Heraklion.
Zakros and its surrounding sights manage to combine the key attractions of
this sun-blessed Greek Isle in one place: rugged, natural beauty, cultural
heritage and a beautiful beach to end your journey.
Whether you're visiting as part of a longer tour or just looking for a sample
of what Crete has to offer, it's a difficult spot to surpass.
© Carol Palioudaki